10th Jan

Detailed estimating – an introduction to unit-rates

A unit-rate is a very basic and detailed item that can be found in a lot of estimates or project descriptions. They are used for bidding and detailed estimating purposes. Here’s a short introduction to the concept.

Bottom-up estimating

A wide variety of unit rates is available, where each unit rate is a logical element or activity that can be represented as a cost per unit of measurement. A single unit rate can be composed of material and labor components. When estimating using unit-rates, you identify all activities within a project and determine the number of hours and amount of material needed. From there, you assembly those items into large components to add structure to the estimate and to simplify the search for specific items later on. This way of estimating is called bottom-up estimating.


A well-known database of unit-rates is CESK Unit Rates. Not only is this a perfect source to build up your detailed cost estimates, it is also a strong basis for your tendering and bidding processes. Based on industry standards and thousands of real-life projects, the available unit rates within CESK give an accurate overview of the required labor hours and materials for common activities and components. That way you can be confident that your bid is competitive while maintaining profitability. Owner companies can use the CESK Unit Rates to validate and review submitted proposals against a reliable industry standard.

A Unit-Rate typically includes the following items:

• General Qualifications

• Uniform Measurement Methodology

• Mini Scope Description (Preamble)

• Labour Norm * Labour Rate

• Tools & Construction Equipment

• Material

• Consumables

An example of a Unit-Rate is a butt weld (Seen in introduction image)

Butt weld unit rate

Performing measurements, laying and supporting pipe, marking off cut, cutting off, preparing weld edge, removing any remaining paint, if necessary, cleaning, aligning, supporting, tack welding, checking, welding.
Measurement: per piece


It is vital for a cost estimator to know about unit-rates, how they are built up and how they are applied throughout projects. It is an important building block for many project related documents and is often used as a basis for contracting. More information on CESK Unit Rates can be found on our website. 

Do you have a question, or do you want to know more about CESK data, please feel free to contact us.